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Autism Linked To Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy


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Prenatal exposure to certain pesticides may boost a child's risk of autism by 60 percent, new research suggests. (Shutterstock)

Prenatal exposure to certain pesticides may boost a child’s risk of autism by 60 percent, new research suggests. (Shutterstock)

A new study is adding to evidence that prenatal exposure to pesticides may significantly increase a child’s risk of autism.

Children born to mothers who lived within a mile of fields and farms where certain chemical pesticides were applied during pregnancy were at a two-thirds higher risk of autism or developmental delay, researchers found.

The risk was greatest during the second and third trimesters, according to findings published online Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

For the study, researchers looked at more than 1,000 children in California whose mothers responded to questions about where they lived just before and during pregnancy. The addresses were cross-checked with detailed state records on agricultural chemical applications which included information on what types of chemicals were used, where, when and in what quantity.

“What we saw were several classes of pesticides more commonly applied near residences of mothers whose children developed autism or had delayed cognitive or other skills,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto of the University of California, Davis MIND Institute who worked on the study.

One-third of the mothers lived within a mile of a chemical application site during the time studied, researchers said. In some cases, a mother’s proximity to a chemical spray directly correlated to greater or weaker odds of autism.

Kids born to mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have autism, the study found. Pyrethroids were also associated with an increased risk of autism, especially when the exposure occurred late in pregnancy, and carbamates were linked to developmental delay.

Researchers said the findings highlight the importance of reducing chemical exposure as much as possible around expectant mothers and young children, though they said other factors are also at play when it comes to autism and developmental delay.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Autism parent says:

    If pesticide exposure during pregnancy can increase autism risk what are the risks to infants from pesticide exposure? Much of the produce sold in Supermarkets today are imported and many countries outside the US allow heavy pesticide use. This could be causing a direct toxic exposure to our children. EPA spends millions to ensure that our environment is safe meabwhile there are toxins on the food we eat. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. EPA holds industry to such high standards to protect us meanwhile heavy pesticide residue is allowed on imported food that we eat. essentially we are being poisoned. Because toxins bioaccumulate, young children are especially vulnerable. This makes no sense.

  2. Whitney says:

    If I miss my guess most people can not avoid pesticides and it lingers in the food chain. It basically comes down to cost of doing farming. EPA hands are pretty much tied and the enforcement power has been gutted due to big business. The pesticides my guess is accumulates in the mother bodies over time. It is not processed out completely. EPA can site farms using dangerous pesticides but not enforce the farmers change to safer practices. The Farmers say it will cost more to do business and drive them out of business they in turn send out the lobbyist on their behalf. Just look at somanelli cases in spinach and lettuces to show how vulnerable the system is. Pollution is part of the culprit for increase diseases like asthma in children. I wouldn’t be surprise if partial cause to increase in autism. Look at lead paint and mercury these heavy metals are never processed out of the body.

  3. Genesis says:

    How does pesticides lead to Autism? Seriously…. you’re making less sense, every single time… you’re not looking at the obvious, because you will not accept the obvious.

  4. Julia Moore says:

    Very alarming. Chemicals are also in all our personal products..sunscreen, lotion, shampoo, laundry detergent, and our skin soaks it all up. No wonder Autism, asthma, allergies, adhd, cancer are all on the rise. I’m the Mom of a daughter who is blind and DD; she’s 33 years old and in 2008 had a kidney transplant. Our family does not have a history of kidney disease.

  5. Whitney says:

    Genesis, It is a poison and a toxin. Basically your feeding people trace of toxin that is how. DDT was used as pesticide and look what it did to the Bald Eagle populations. The eggs were far to delicate to be viable.

  6. Dennice says:

    Unfortunately causation for Autism is going through the same process every other condition goes through when it finally gains some recognition and funding. Every day there is a new cause announced until virtually everything is the cause which dilutes interest and by extension research funding. Then a new flavor of the month comes along and its rinse and repeat.

  7. Tony cholewinski says:

    Genesis, I share your skeptical nature, but what is the obvious? The increase in cases is a fact. This may have been mis-diagnosed for years and awareness is higher. Or there is a new or increased use of something environmental that is causing the significant numeric increase. I also share Dennice’s concern about the cause of the week, many of these may be that it is none of these but something common to the socio-economic class shared by the uses of many of these chemicals and products. And again, I am not saying these exposures should be minimized for all health concerns, just not sure this reaches scientific method of proof yet.

  8. Alisa Walter says:


    I’d like to know if the chemicals named above are used in any other applications?
    ie: cleaning products, indoor extermination

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